Cape Town mayor Dan Plato met with representatives of the Vygieskraal Cemetery Board to discuss concerns over vandalism at the graveyard and the possibility of expanding the burial ground.
The meeting was held on the municipal land next to the cemetery where homeless people have built shelters. They have been accused of vandalising the nearby graves.
The cemetery is also known as the Johnston Road Cemetery, and the municipal ground is along old Klipfontein Road, Rylands.
Mr Plato said he had agreed to meet with the board as his office had received letters of complaint.
“There is dismay and unhappiness about the current situation – the structures that were built here against the outside of the cemetery wall, as well as the lack of cleanliness and the vandalism of the graves,” he said. “I have also been told that some funeral-goers were being harassed and demands were being made for money from them. The board indicated to me that they would like to expand the cemetery and wanted to know if it is possible to take over the municipal-owned land.“
Ward 46 councillor Aslam Cassiem and mayoral committee member for community services and health Dr Zahid Badroodien also joined the meeting.
Mr Plato urged the board members to submit an application to the City to make their intentions clear.
Abdullah Salie, the board’s chairman, said they hoped to expand the cemetery as it was running out of space.
“I’m very happy with the outcome of the meeting,” he said. “It sounds very promising. We are sending in our application, and City officials will discuss it – this is at least something. We already have a funder on board to extend the wall, should it be approved.”
Mr Cassiem said he feared it could take years before a decision was made, but Mr Plato said all the legal steps had to be taken.
Mr Cassiem said: “It is important to get people to work together. However, it is not possible for us to just remove people. We need to also get the bureaucratic processes escalated, so that we don’t wait another 18 months from this meeting for anything to happen. What happened here is not just a Ward 46 issue, it affects hundreds of thousands of people. The Muslim community has a high regard for burial sites.”
Both Dr Badroodien and Mr Cassiem said they would recommend that the City hand over the land to the cemetery board.